I have been debating how I wanted to write this post. Do I talk about the things I’m doing now that I’m in Laos, or talk about the things that I’ve been up to the last week in Thailand?
I think what’s making it so difficult is that while there were points that were really fun and amazing in Thailand, overall I don’t like it as much as I love Laos. On top of that, my less than stellar “trekking” experience in Chiang Mai has left a sour taste in my mouth. I hate the idea of spending an entire post complaining about my experience (I actually wrote one before this but deleted it because it was just too much), so I will just say a few things:
The tourism board in Thailand should NOT offer this particular trek during the low season. The waterfall was non-existent and my white-water rafting on the second day consisted of us pulling our raft off of rocks more than we were rafting. If they want to offer this tour during the dry season, they should make it known when you buy the ticket that the river is low and the waterfall is small. Really small. Also, the “authentic” village we stopped at didn’t treat their elephants well. So that didn’t make me feel like my money was going to the right place at all. Which leads me to the final conclusion that I paid too much money and did not get what I was expecting out of the trip
At least Chiang Mai wasn’t as chaotic as Bangkok and I managed to find a little bit of peace and beauty again before leaving the country. It took me a few days to get used to moving around by myself and working up the courage to talk to random people and ask to join them if they were going to the same temples I was going to. In the end, I met up with a few people that have been great to travel with and the best part is that they’re my age (so I can stop hanging out with all the 18 and 19 year old kids on their gap year). I love the temples in Chiang Mai. A lot of them don’t get very much attention, so most of the time, you could gaze up at them in complete solitude and take in all the details. I found myself being really drawn to the scales of the serpents guarding the doors.
A lot of the temples hosted monk chats, which was a designated time that you could sit down with one or two (or in our case, 8) monks and talk to them about anything you want. It’s supposed to help them learn English and of course help you understand more about their lifestyle and Buddhism. I thought they were so interesting to talk to. I was mostly expecting them to be very stoic with their answers, but I found them to be very forthcoming. They talked about everything from their day to day activities, how they don’t like homework, the fact that they have fears and worries and feelings of doubt. But even so, they said it all with a smile on their face, as if they knew that even with all that, they are able to find joy and happiness within themselves. We joined them for an introductory course into meditation. It was really challenging to quiet your mind and stay seated for 15 minutes. I can’t imagine how they do it for hours on end.
I decided to take the slow boat on the Mekong River to get to Luang Prabang, Laos. But that required yet another minivan journey up through Chiang Rai and on to the border town Chiang Khong. We stopped for a brief 20 minute break at the white temple, Wat Rong Khun, in Chiang Rai.
By far the weirdest Buddhist temple I have every seen. Outside, there were disembodied hands (one had a wristband on it that said John Lennon) and demon heads, while inside the temple there was an even stranger mural. While there were paintings of Buddha there were also cameos of Spiderman, Batman, the twin towers with a plane crashing into it, Neo from the Matrix, and angry birds to name a few. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the mural, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
The slow boat ride was absolutely amazing, but I’ll save that for tomorrow’s post.